profiles - a light-hearted look at industry personalities
No. 43 in a continuing series
President, City Theatrical, Inc.
Gary Fails didn't start out looking for a career in show business, but it's ended up being the only thing he's done since leaving college in 1972. He showed no interest in show business while growing up in Ohio (in the industrial heartland of the U.S.), instead spending most of his time playing American football, and chose Columbia University in New York to attend college and to play football. After one and one half "exciting" years on campus, Gary decided to take a brief leave of absence to "find himself".
He soon found show business instead, taking a job with Allen Funt Productions (Candid Camera) in New York City as a production assistant. His ability to back a truck into a loading dock and to drive for long periods without falling asleep soon landed him a job driving a truck with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. While standing around backstage and trying not to fall into the orchestra pit, he was asked to cut some gel, and was soon hooked on the backstage life.
DTH was nearly constantly on tour, and within a few months of starting with them, Gary was thrust into the job of stage manager and lighting designer on a European tour, even though he knew next to nothing about what he was doing, a trait that has never stopped him before or since. He learned his craft the hard way, on the road, making mistakes, driving the trucks, hanging the shows, and having an enormous amount of fun. He soon met Steve Terry (now of ETC) and they toured around the world together for several years.
After DTH Gary stayed out on the road for several more years, making a total of nearly 10 years of constant travel. He toured as the head electrician with several Broadway productions around the U.S., including the infamous ‘Broken Hearts and Empty Bottles' tour of the Broadway show ‘Dancin', most noted for having both the largest lighting rig on the road at the time, and the largest number of beautiful dancers in the cast. (Please note that most of the legendary stories about Gary's life during this period have been greatly exaggerated.)
Gary returned to NYC in the early 1980's and settled down to become a Broadway stagehand as a member of ‘Local One' of the stagehands union, working nights on Broadway shows and days in the sheet metal department at Four Star Lighting in the Bronx where he learned how to design and develop lighting equipment and accessories.
As a Broadway electrician he became the house electrician at the Circle in the Square Theatre on Broadway and served as the production electrician on 28 shows over a ten-year period and had the opportunity to work with and get to know nearly every prominent Broadway lighting designer.
During this same time, Gary opened City Theatrical in a small garage in the South Bronx, to provide custom metalwork for shows in NYC, and soon found lighting designers asking him to develop unique and custom lighting accessories. The business grew steadily, and in 1994 CTI made a small catalog of lighting accessories and attended LDI in Reno. In 1996 Gary gave up working nights, ending a 16 year period in which he worked two jobs, and CTI has since grown into an internationally recognized manufacturer of lighting accessories and the winner of over 15 product and business awards.
In August 2002, Gary completed a goal of over 30 years by returning to Columbia University to get his diploma, skipping the remainder of his bachelor's degree and going directly to a Masters Degree in Business Administration, and hopes to use the knowledge to grow and improve City Theatrical.
Gary lives in Rockland County, New York, with his wife Terri Klausner, who is a singer and actress, and his three teenagers.
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